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2. This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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Liu Shu held Liu Xu’er’s hand as they left. Just as they exited, they collided into a man, around 30-ish, walking in. This was the person they had met in town, Shi Qian. The two of them stood still and simultaneously gave a bow. “Good day Uncle Shi!”
Shi Cheng’s dad smiled and nodded his head. “Good day Liu Shu, Xu’er. Are you leaving at this time? Why don’t you stay for a meal!”
Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er simultaneously shook their head. “Thank you Uncle Shi, but there’s no need. We will head back now.” The two siblings held hands and walked away.
Shi Cheng’s dad turned to gaze at the two young ones holding hands and making their way down the slope. Startled, he asked, “Aren’t these two going home? Where are they headed?”
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Fbk Ubldt’p xwx zywtble. “Pked’v usw jdso? Mbl Nkw qyxkzu byp plryayvle, yde vbl plnsde caydnb byp xshle vs vbl bswpl fwpv clzso vbl pzsrl swvpkel.”
Fbk Ubldt’p eye pyke pwarakple. “Mblu’hl yzalyeu plryayvle? Tso kp kv R blyae dsvbkdt ycswv vbkp wdvkz dso?”
Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla pyke. “Mbl psdp kd vbl qyxkzu yal yzz sd tsse vlaxp. Mblu eked’v plryayvl clnywpl sq ldezlpp qktbvp okvbkd vbl qyxkzu. Fs sq nswapl vbl xyvvla oswzed’v cl czsod wr qsa yzz vbl hkzzytl vs vyzj ycswv.”
Fbk Ubldt’p eye dseele yv vbyv.&dcpr;
Fbk Ubldt iwknjzu yeele, “Pye, R oldv vs hkpkv obld vblu xshle. Dw’la’p qyxkzu kp ps rkvkyczl – vblu eked’v lhld tlv y pnayr sq xlyv! Fs R vssj y qlo fkdp sq xlyv yde lttp, yde pyke vbyv usw yde xwx vsze xl vs tkhl kv vs vblx.”
Gv vbyv, Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla vwadle, “R oyp fwpv ycswv vs vyzj vs usw ycswv vbyv….”
Jwv Fbk Ubldt’p eye bye yzalyeu ytalle. “Od, vbyv pbswze cl vbl oyu. Mbyv’p pxyav sq usw – ol’al yzz dlktbcsap. Rv kp sdzu aktbv vbyv ol blzr zssj yqvla lynb svbla.”
Tl vbld yeealpple Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla. “Mbkp kp vbl oyu vbkdtp yal kd vbl hkzzytl. Ohlausdl zssjp yqvla lynb svbla. Ebs jdsop, vseyu, ol zssj swv qsa vblka qyxkzu, cwv kd qwvwal, kv xyu cl Fbk Ubldt obs dllep vblka blzr. Rv eslpd’v vyjl wp y zsv sq lqqsav sa y zsv sq xsdlu vs blzr vblx yde vbkp oyu, ol cwkze y tsse alzyvksdpbkr okvb vblx. Gde kv xyu cl vbyv Fbk Ubldt oswze dlle vbyv alzyvksdpbkr kd qwvwal.”
Shi Cheng’s mother had been with her husband doing business for close to 10 years. Of course she understood the importance of building relationships, it was just that she tended to be proud. Still, this didn’t affect her ability to build good rapport with others. So when she heard what her husband said, she explained, “I am not angry that Shi Cheng took the things, after all, what is that bit of nothing worth….” She broke off and turned to instruct Shi Cheng, “Go and check the kitchen. If the meal has been prepared, then help Aunt Cui to serve it to your ye and nai.”
Shi Cheng agreed, knowing that this was his mother’s method of getting him out of the way. He made his way toward the kitchen, but when he turned a corner, he stood hidden from view, to eavesdrop.
Sure enough, Shi Cheng’s mum continued. “It’s just, don’t you find that Shi Cheng is too close with the Liu family’s children? Especially that Xu’er….”
“Chi! What are you saying?! Both of them are the same age, so it’s natural to be close. Surely you’re not hoping for Shi Cheng to play with the older children in the village? Who knows whether they would fight! You really… If he plays with the boys in the village, you worry that he would go wild, if he plays with girls, you worry over these matters! What do you expect Shi Cheng to do? He’s only five.”
There was nothing Shi Cheng’s mother could say to that.
Shi Cheng’s dad shook his head again, “You also shouldn’t have such unrealistic expectations of him. It takes time for things to develop, and it doesn’t help for you to try and hurry the process along. You can’t pull a plant out by its roots to help it grow faster. Shi Cheng is only five. Don’t just push him to study all day. Otherwise, he may just become a bookish fool! He should go out more with similar aged children to play, especially the Liu’s family’s third girl. I find her rather clever. Shi Cheng should learn from her! Otherwise, when he goes to do business, what would happen? Businessmen need to be sharp.”
Shi Cheng’s mother felt that what her husband said was true, so she nodded. “What you said makes sense. Ever since I started to teach Xu’er how to make handicrafts, I found that she is truly quite clever! There isn’t at all the clumsiness of a small child. She learns quickly and remembers the instructions quite well. Say, how is it that such a child…. Was born in a village?”
When Shi Cheng heard his mum say that, he secretly laughed, before hurrying to the kitchen to help serve the meal.
When Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er returned home, they washed their hands, and had their meal. Then Liu Xu’er went to look after her family’s two rabbits and two chickens. He shi used a blue kerchief to wrap her hair, intending to go with Liu Changgeng down the ravine to gather firewood for use in the winter. She instructed the children to close the door properly and to look after Liu Sen.
The ravine at this side was very deep, and there wasn’t a proper path for people to walk. It was only by frequent use that an uneven path was worn. For children aged 10 and under, no family would dare allow them to go into the ravine. It was too dangerous. An accidental slip could cause them to roll down. So, although these tasks, like gathering pig feed or gathering firewood, were commonly given to the children in other regions to do, they were all done by the adults here.
Liu Shu waited for his parents to leave before locking the main courtyard door. He went to the main building to look after Liu Sen. Having just eaten, Liu Sen was sleepy. His little head nodding away, he lay over Liu Lin’s shoulder. Liu Shu gently told Liu Lin to coax the little boy to sleep, before going over to check on Liu Xu’er.
“Xu’er, what time yesterday did the hens lay their eggs?”
“In the afternoon.” Liu Xu’er said.
“Once they’ve laid their eggs, let the hens out to move around. We can’t keep the hens cooped up all the time. It would stress them and after a while, they may stop laying.”
Liu Xu’er agreed. “I know. Yesterday when they laid their eggs, they clucked really loudly, scaring the rabbits.”
Liu Shu laughed. Imitating his mother, he said. “You’d best look after your two precious rabbits!”
Saying this, the two siblings laughed.
Liu Shu was full of curiosity – after all, he was just seven. So he came over and asked. “Xu’er, tell me, why did you insist on buying these rabbits. Don’t you know how much we could buy with 500 wen?”
Liu Xu’er paused for a moment. After thinking about it, she felt that it would be ok to explain these things to her gege. Her dage was young, but was extremely sensible. The children of poor families were always forced to mature quickly, and as the eldest son in their family, he had long felt the burden of responsibility.
So she said, “It wasn’t because I wanted to eat meat. Dage, didn’t you hear what the rabbit seller said? When these rabbits mature, their fur will become very very long. Once we shear them, we can sell the fur! I wanted to raise these rabbits for their fur, to sell it and buy lots of nice food for erge and Senzi to eat. Then our family can have meat everyday.”
However, Liu Shu wasn’t too convinced. “That rabbit seller wants to sell you his rabbits, so of course he would say all these things.”
Liu Xu’er thought to herself – Not bad dage, that’s pretty on point! She quickly nodded. “I heard Shi Cheng say that he had seen others raising long-furred rabbits. The fur can actually be sold. Also, his mother had worn clothes made of rabbit fur. He himself has worn a rabbit fur hat!”
Once Liu Shu heard that Shi Cheng had proof, he started to believe. “Is that so? That would be really good….” He looked at the two rabbits and said, “If we really can sell it for money, that would be good.”
“En, of course we can! Dage, don’t you want to eat meat everyday? In any case, I do, so we should work harder and help dad and mum make more money!”
A laugh escaped Liu Shu. “What big claims! We should indeed help dad and mum with work, but can you really make more money? Do you even know what it means to make money?”
“If we sell the rabbit fur, then isn’t that making money?” Liu Xu’er pulled on his arms and said solemnly, “Oh and dage, yesterday I overheard dajiu and mum having a conversation. Dajiu said that growing apple trees can also make money! Let’s also plant a few trees?”
Liu Shu couldn’t quite keep up. He went blank for a moment before saying, “Where can we get apple tree saplings? I heard that those saplings are more expensive than meat! It may even be more expensive than your two rabbits…. Also, we both don’t know how to care for them, what happens if they die?”
“We can ask Shi Cheng for saplings – their family has an apple orchard. I heard that it’s quite easy to grow. As for more specifics…. Shi Cheng has a book. That should tell us how to care for the trees!
Liu Shu found that strange. “There are books teaching you how to grow trees? Are you sure?”
“Yes of course. Shi Cheng has seen them before, and told me about it.” Liu Xu’er glanced at him. “Dage, it would be good if you could read. We could ask Shi Cheng to get us a book, and then we could follow the instructions on how to grow the trees. If we succeed, we can let erge and Senzi have meat everyday. Dad and mum can enjoy the good life.”
Liu Shu was stunned by what she said. He looked blankly at her for a long while, before lowering his head.
Liu Xu’er stuck out her tongue. Knowing that her dage was starting to consider this, she didn’t say any more. The two siblings settled the rabbits and chickens before heading back to the main house.
Liu Lin and Liu Sen had both fallen asleep. Liu Xu’er also climbed up the kang to join them before eventually being woken by Senzi’s whining.
It turned out that Liu Sen had woken up, and when he couldn’t find mum, he became unhappy and started to whine. Liu Lin and Liu Shu were surrounding him, trying to soothe him.
Liu Xu’er sat up and told Liu Sen, “Be good Senzi. Jie will make you something nice to eat!”
Liu Sen immediately stopped his whining. He put a finger in his mouth and asked, “What nice thing? Jie, you cannot lie to me, I want to eat something nice.”
Liu Xu’er smiled. “Jie has never lied to Senzi.” Saying this, she got off the kang, and washed her hands. Then she took the glutinous rice cake that Shi Cheng had given her earlier. She placed it in a pot full of warm water to heat it up. Then she used a ladle to break up the sweets that Shi Cheng’s mother had given, before sprinkling it on top of the cake.
When it had been heated enough, she brought it out and scooped a bite for Senzi. “Open your mouth.”
Liu Sen opened his mouth and swallowed it. Sure enough, his face immediately broke out into a sunny smile. “How delicious! It’s so sweet.”
“What is this, Xu’er? Where did you get it from?” Liu Lin asked.
“Glutinous rice cake. I got it at Shi Cheng’s house. He gave it to me.” Liu Xu’er said. She smilingly asked Liu Sen, “Senzi, would you give some to gege and jiejie?”
Liu Sen immediately shook his head. “No.” Saying that, he stretched his arm out to snatch at the bowl.
Seeing his behavior, Liu Xu’er shook her head. “You cannot behave this way, Senzi. You see how when jiejie has nice things, she shares it with Senzi. When Senzi has something nice, he should also share it with jiejie and gege. Otherwise, do you think it’s right if only Senzi gets to eat, while jiejie and gege get nothing?”
Liu Sen went blank before saying, “Then you all should have some too.” Actually, he wasn’t particularly selfish about his food. If no one asked him, and his gege and jiejie had a share, he wouldn’t get upset. It was only because he was specifically asked by Liu Xu’er that his inherent childish nature would insist he not share. But once his sister explained things, although he still didn’t really understand, he knew it wasn’t alright for only him to get to eat.
When she heard that, Liu Xu’er was happy. She gave Liu Lin a big mouthful, before scooping Liu Shu another. Liu Shu shook his head and said softly, “Let Senzi have it.”
Liu Xu’er softly replied. “Shi Cheng said, this glutinous rice is very sticky. It’s not good for small children to eat too much or they would get a stomachache. It’s better to divide it up.”
Once Liu Shu heard that, he agreed to take some.